This 2020 FA class isn’t as stacked as last year’s phenomenal class, which was headlined by Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, and Kyrie Irving; all superstar-level talents. This year’s class is headlined by Anthony Davis (superstar), DeMar DeRozan (former perennial All-Star), and Brandon Ingram.
The latter of these headliners - Ingram, an emerging star, has put his team in a peculiar situation. Do they offer him the max? Do they simply watch his offers come in around the league and match whatever he accepts? Do they let him walk and look to build differently? Let’s explore Ingram’s possible destinations this upcoming off-season.
New Orleans Pelicans
The New Orleans Pelicans hit the post-Anthony Davis era in full sprint with the load of young talent they received in return for the star Big-Man. The team was expected to be in rebuild mode, but with the emergence of Ingram as an efficient lead scorer and Zion Williamson as a future superstar, this team was fighting for a playoff spot before this season hiatus. With that said, is this team built to win championships or simply be a perennial pretender? Matching any max offer for Ingram should be a cut-and-dried decision.
Ingram is proving to be a very good #1 scoring option as he averaged a fairly efficient 24.2 PPG this season. His numbers have dipped playing alongside Zion, down from 25.6 PPG and 6.7 RPG to 21.1 and 5.2 respectively (with shooting splits of 47.7/39.9/85.8 to 43.8/36.0/85.5). It is still a small sample size, and the Pelicans have gone 9-8 with the 2 players in the lineup together, which is a good sign for a team who was making a playoff push.
The Pelicans have a very young roster, mostly composed of rookie contracts; and the lone large contract they have can come off the books in 2 years (Jrue Holiday has a $27M player option in 2021). This team is set up to be big players in upcoming FA classes even if Ingram gets the max. Adding a star player alongside Zion and Ingram should be in play for the Pelicans in a few seasons.
Positives for Ingram: familiarity, maximized financial potential, ability to play alongside a potential superstar in Zion
Negatives for Ingram: not a big-name FA destination, not a seamless fit next to Zion
The Atlanta Hawks are in an interesting position. The will be heading into the 2020 offseason with the most cap space in the NBA. Their 2 best players (Trae Young and John Collins) are both on rookie deals and they just landed their potential future C (Clint Capela) at under $20M/yr for at least 3 more years. Even though the team just drafted 2 wing players (Cam Reddish and De’Andre Hunter), going after Ingram might just be the right move for them. Adding Ingram opens the Hawks up to be able to shop either Kevin Huerter, Reddish, or Hunter; whether individually, as a combo deal, or all 3.
An Eastern Conference team featuring a big 3 of Trae, Ingram, and Collins can become a real threat if all 3 players continue to develop their games. Add in Capela and Dedmon manning the middle and adding other shooters to the rotation, and we may see the Hawks return to top-seeded playoff contention.
A big sell for the Hawks when pitching to Ingram is their versatility for the future. They can become players for an All-Star caliber SG like Bradley Beal or CJ McCollum. Or they can wait things out and fill the roster with solid rotational pieces.
Positives for Ingram: featured player next to a star PG, franchise known for quick rebuilds, team versatility
Negatives for Ingram: very young team, loaded up at his forward positions
The Charlotte Hornets, though 19 games under .500, have been better than many expected. They were expected to be a bottom-feeding team this year, but instead, they are the 10th seed in the Eastern Conference (with 8 total teams having a worse record than them).
The Hornets have spent the past few seasons hampered by bad contracts and little to no star-power. This should be changing within the next few seasons as Bismack Biyombo’s contract will be coming off the books. And even though Nicolas Batum likely accepts his $27M player option, that will be coming off the books following next season, finally freeing the Hornets up to be major players in FA.
If the Hornets were able to land Ingram this offseason, this could lead to another larger name FA signing the following offseason. The Hornets' largest issue, regardless of signing Ingram or not, is hitting on their upcoming draft picks. If they can land a star or solid starter in this year’s draft or next year’s, this team can become a playoff contender.
A team led by Devonte’ Graham and Brandon Ingram would not scare anyone, but if they can also land a star in the following offseason, plus a solid draft, this team would turn around its fortunes.
Positives for Ingram: become the new face of a franchise, usage rate goes back up, link up with fellow North Carolina native, Graham
Negatives for Ingram: not a big-name FA destination, signing with a perennial losing team, no real team direction
The Miami Heat have a few decisions to make this offseason. Goran Dragic will be an unrestricted FA after showing how valuable he is to this contending team. They also have rotational pieces to make decisions on (Derrick Jones Jr., Meyers Leonard, Jae Crowder, and Solomon Hill). None of these 5 players are truly make-or-break impending FAs.
If the Heat want to really be in the Ingram race, they cannot offer any of these players big contracts ($15M+ deals). We’ll likely see the Heat keep 1 or 2 of these guys at discounted prices as they already have young, emerging players taking up minutes at similar positions/roles. They also have Kelly Olynyk on a $13M player option that he will likely be declining.
As far as team fit, Ingram is an intriguing target for the Heat. Kendrick Nunn, Tyler Herro, and Duncan Robinson have become key players in the Heat rotation. Also with Jimmy Butler, there really aren’t many minutes left at the wing positions (especially if Jones Jr is retained for his defensive versatility). Adding Ingram positions him as a PF in most lineups they would be throwing out there. And even though Bam Adebayo is listed as a C, he has played the majority of his minutes at PF. With that being said, a line up of Nunn-Hero (or Robinson)-Butler-Ingram-Adebayo would be a serious team to go up against.
Positives for Ingram: championship contention, playing alongside an established vet in Butler, surrounded by shooters, live in Miami
Negatives for Ingram: mostly play PF, less on-ball dominance
The Phoenix Suns would be an intriguing team in the Brandon Ingram market. They would need to shed some cap holds, and possibly trade a few pieces, to truly be players in the Ingram bidding war. However, as far as team fit, Ingram may be what the Suns need to finally turn things around. The Suns currently have Kelly Oubre starting at SF for them, with Dario Saric (restricted FA this summer/cap hold) at PF.
Letting go of Saric and bringing in Ingram would add some versatility/fire-power to their starting lineup. They would be able to run any of the 4 following guys at the forward spots, depending on matchups: Oubre, Ingram, Mikal Bridges, and Cameron Johnson. How well Ingram fits next to Devin Booker should not be an issue, as both have become better passers over their young careers. The team would become a wing-dominant up-and-comer, with Booker and Ingram providing a phenomenal 1-2 scoring punch. This would also allow the Suns to shop Oubre again, as they were rumored to be shopping him this past trade deadline.
The biggest question to be addressed if they were to sign Ingram would be ‘how much another ball-dominant player takes away from Deandre Ayton’s development’. Can Ayton thrive as a #3 option offensively? Do the Suns look to trade Ayton for a better rim protector at the C position? Though the Suns are in the market for improving, an addition of Ingram could come with consequences.
Positives for Ingram: feature next to another young All-Star in Booker
Negatives for Ingram: the organization has had trouble building. questions marks on rest of roster